Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Our Batanes Adventure: Helpful Tips

Batanes had always been my dream destination.  My recent visit offered so much more than a dream fulfilled.  I strongly recommend Batanes to a foreigner who wants to get to know the Philippines.  It's the best representation of everything that's good about our country being blessed with beautiful landscape, history, culture and the most polite and hospitable people.

It's also a place every Filipino should visit.  To be able to do that, I would like to share some tips on getting the best deal to get there.

1. Schedule you're trip but be flexible on days and dates

According to the tourism guide, summer is the best time to visit the province from March to May, but if you want to experience a cooler climate, schedule your trip on January to February.

The advantage of summer months is that flights and boat transfers are less likely to get cancelled allowing you to visit more attractions.  The disadvantage is that it can be really hot especially on the mountain plains and grasslands that has no shade or cover.

On the colder months, winds can be strong making your inter-island transfers unpredictable.  The advantage is that going around is more comfortable.

2. How to catch the Cheapest Airfare:

The best time to buy should not be less than 6 months before your planned arrival.  So far only 2 airlines regularly fly the route to Basco from Manila, Philippine Airlines and Sky Jet.  There's a greater chance of getting a good rate with PAL.

Also, always be on the lookout for on-line sale.  Join the mailing list for updates or check the official FB Page for announcements.

Another option is to snag deals through Travel Expositions.  The Travel expo is usually held every February and the TravelMart, where I purchased my promo tickets is held every September.  Try to come on the first day because they only offer limited seats.  The earlier you make your booking, the more chances they're available on your preferred dates.  Be prepared to endure long lines.  It took me four hours to reach the counter from my end of the line.

3. How long should you stay;

Flights for Basco only lands in the morning.  You can use the remaining day of your arrival to start the tour but very little can be done on your departure date.  A tour of Batan and Sabtang can be compressed in two days (3D/2N) on a good weather, but Batanes is known for its unpredictability.  The most ideal would be 4 days and 3 nights.  One day for the North Batan Tour, another for the South attractions and another for Sabtang.  Grab the chance to go to Sabtang Island as soon as you arrive.  The boat ride only takes 30 minutes, but the winds and waves can be treacherous. In cases boat rides are cancelled on the 1st day, you still have 2 more days as a back-up.  Should you want to visit Itbayat, allocate another day or two.

4.  Type of Accommodation:

Homestays allows you to be immersed on history, culture and the people.  Villa Bella, The ancestral house we stayed was only 11 years younger than the oldest house in the Island.  Imagine yourself protected by the thick stone walls typical of the Ivatan house, with narrow windows allowing just enough light and wind to circulate.  What's even more priceless are the stories shared by the homeowners themselves.

Villa Bella
Contact Ate Ching: 0929-4436866

5. Which town to stay?

Basco, where the airport is located has plenty of home stays and pension houses you can choose from depending on your budget.  Commercial establishments like restaurants and souvenir shops are also easily accessible as compared to the other towns.  

Ivana where we stayed located on the South of Batan Island is more laid back.  Here is where the oldest house and the popular Honesty Store is located and within walking distance from our home stay.  The port in Ivana is where Sabtang Island bound boat leaves every morning.

I recommend travellers to stay in Ivana.

6.  Are there cellphone signals?

Yes, most networks have cell sites except on some remote areas, although 3G on-line connection is still not available.  Take advantage of restaurants and pension houses offering free wi-fi for emergencies or that "I'm in Batanes" status update complemented by a selfie photo at the lighthouse.

I hope these informations were useful.  These were the things I wish should have known before coming to the province.

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